The Perks of being a postdoc in Boston

Creating transparency in the benefits landscape

At March 17-19, 2017 we presented this advocacy effort at the National Postdoc Association (NPA) annual meeting in San Francisco.
The poster presentation can be downloaded here.

INTRODUCTION |

Postdoc positions originally served as brief periods of training between graduate studies and independent professorships or industry jobs. However, their duration has increased in recent years and current compensation packages may need to be re-evaluated. Many postdocs have families to support and struggle with high costs of living, particularly in urban areas. They are often unaware of the variability in compensation and benefits between research institutions. International postdocs are especially affected since they may not be aware of the importance of benefits packages in the US. There are also differences in benefits between postdocs at the same institution. Additionally, institutional information is often difficult to extract from online or offline sources. 

To resolve this and inform current and prospective postdocs, the Boston Postdoctoral Association (BPDA) has compiled a comprehensive list of benefits offered by 13 Boston area institutions including salaries, types of insurance, paid days off, retirement plans, childcare, and family leave. 

KEY FINDINGS |

  1. There is a significant disparity between ‘employee’ and ‘non-employee’ postdocs in eligibility for overall benefits at many institutions.
  2. Minimum starting salaries are largely comparable, but experience-based increments differ significantly.
  3. While most institutions set a minimum salary based on NIH NRSA stipends, a small minority is leading the way and pays above this scale, compensating for high costs of living in Boston.
  4. Only a few institutions provide retirement plans with employer-matched contributions, and paid family leave policies and childcare subsidies are limited and vary widely.
  5. All institutions provide health insurance to ‘employee’ postdocs. However, postdoc-borne costs and plan benefits differ widely, and requires more data for clarity.

CONCLUSIONS |

We hope to provide valuable information to current and prospective postdocs. This will also encourage discussions among postdoctoral associations (PDAs), postdoctoral offices (PDOs) and institute administration about transparency, equalization, and improvement of benefits for postdoctoral scholars. Thus, this data serves as a valuable resource for institutional PDAs to inform their advocacy efforts. This information will be updated as institutions change their policy, based on the information provided by PDAs and PDOs, and also allow us to track outcomes of advocacy efforts.

In the future, we plan to expand this effort by comparing conditions between institute-sponsored health insurance plans and by encouraging efforts to offer affordable health insurance plans for postdoctoral scholars ineligible for institute-sponsored health insurance plans.

The full sheet can be viewed here.